William Affleck was born on the island of St Kitts and enlisted
in the British army in 1801 in Hounslow, Middlesex. In 1819, he
was discharged on the grounds of poor health, having spent almost
all of his army career as a trumpeter.
Discharge papers, such as Affleck's, are now the main (and
sometimes the only) source of information about individual soldiers.
These papers were retained by the army whenever a soldier was discharged
with a pension. But the majority of rank-and-file soldiers, both
Black and White, were ineligible for a pension, so their service
records were destroyed after their discharge from the army. It is
therefore impossible to tell exactly how many soldiers in the British
army were Black.
In order to identify individual Black soldiers among the discharge
papers that were retained, it is necessary to search for indicators
of race within the records themselves. We only know that William
Affleck was Black because, in addition to specifying his birthplace,
his service record states that he was of 'black Complexion'.
WO 97/12 (1819)